A prominent Iranian business leader said his country has lost tens of thousands of private sector jobs in recent months, the latest sign of a worsening Iranian economy as the U.S. re-imposes tough sanctions.
In a Thursday report, state news agency ISNA quoted the deputy head of the Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture as saying 50,000 jobs were lost from March to May. The three-month period referenced by Hossein Selahvarzi represents the first quarter of the Persian year.
ISNA said Selahvarzi made the comment in a meeting with lawmakers from Tehran province. The report gave no details of how the 50,000 jobs were lost. But reports from state media, social media and rights activists in Iran have described frequent layoffs and factory closures around the country this year.
Target of million jobs
Selahvarzi also is quoted as saying the aim was to create 1 million jobs in the current Persian year that began in March. It was unclear to whose aim he was referring, but his disclosure of job losses in the first quarter of the year suggests Iran is lagging far behind that job creation goal.
The United States withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal last month, starting the process of re-imposing tough sanctions on the Iranian energy sector that produces the country's main export, oil.
Since then, Iran's rial has weakened to a record low against the dollar on the black market on fears the U.S. sanctions will curb oil exports that serve as the country's main revenue source.
Value of rial drops
In a Thursday interview on VOA Persian's NewsHour program, Iran analyst and former Glasgow University political science professor Reza Taghizadeh said the plunging value of the rial has exacerbated Iran's job losses, particularly in manufacturing.
"With the declining value of the national currency, the incentive to invest in Iran's economy, for domestic investors or foreign investors, drops substantially," Taghizadeh said. "And if there are no imports coming into Iran [because the rising dollar makes them more expensive], that will significantly affect what domestic manufacturers can make."
Dependent on imports
He said Iran's industries are heavily dependent on imports of unfinished products and of machinery needed to assemble the parts of those products.
Iran's official unemployment rate for the March 2017 to March 2018 Persian year was 12.1 percent.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Persian Service.